Directed by Tina Gordon, the new comedy Little is at a relatively interesting crosswords between funny and simply “okay.” Regina Hall stars as Jordan Sanders, a tech entrepreneur who has been featured on the cover of WIRED. Jordan Sanders is also completely unreasonable, cruel, and rich. She is unpleasant to be unpleasant. There is exactly one person who wants to be around her, and that’s perplexing in its own way, because he actually seems alright. She is a hardcore terrible person, and verbally abuses everyone, from her assistant April (Issa Rae, of Insecure fame) to a little girl who dances to advertise the donut truck parked outside Jordan’s office building.
Jordan justifies her meanness because she was bullied as a child, and her father told her that when she’s big, she can “be the boss, and no one messes with the boss.” She’s taken this to its unnatural extreme, demanding her personal items be specific distances (in inches) from her, cutting in line at the coffee stand with a twenty in hand to ensure she is served first, and takes out her tiniest annoyances on her employees. Crying is not out of the norm.
When she sees the little girl happily dancing outside her office building, she yells at her. The girl whips out a magic wand accessorized in her hair, and casts wish that actually comes true: Jordan is brought back down to the age she was when she turned into a little hellbeast. Marsai Martin (black-ish) takes over from here as the younger Jordan, and becomes the entitled bratty child she acts like, but with way more money.
The movie isn’t bad, but it leaves something to be desired. There isn’t enough meat to April’s plans to back up her assumption of a powerful role in Jordan’s absence: I guess a little girl can’t run the company, but an executive assistant who has never even pitched an idea to any of the well-qualified app developers in the room can do it! It doesn’t make sense at all.
The story’s major subplot is Jordan’s re-enrollment into middle school. There’s still a mean girl lurking around, but Jordan is meaner and unafraid to show off. She takes a trio of geeky kids under her wing, but it’s not as satisfying as it could be since it leans heavily on the basics of middle school tropes. This is what makes the difference in rating between PG-13 and R. Other than a few remarks by Adult Jordan at the start, there isn’t much of a boundary push to the genre.
At least the main storyline riffs on the relationship between the assistant and boss. Issa Rae is great with Marsai, and watching her relish in her newfound power over her boss is delightful. April still has the disadvantage of needing to “parent” as Jordan can’t even leave the apartment without an adult saying, “Where’s your Mom? “ “Are you lost?” and “I didn’t know Jordan had a daughter!”
It’s the classic body switch. Where Freaky Friday is a morality tale about familial love and appreciation, Little is its contemporary adult psychological personal crisis. Since Jordan has crowned herself The Boss, she has over-complicated her need for acceptance into a desire to bully and rob others of happiness so much that employees run when she walks into the building. What do the accomplishments mean if you still wake up needing to assert dominance rather than relate or even bring others up to join you in success? Jordan has not yet graduated to a maturity beyond material things and as such views other humans as obstructions to her vision, but the employees are failing to generate good ideas from her poor leadership. It’s a bad situation for everyone.
Luckily, we aren’t supposed to feel bad for Jordan. We want her to learn and become a better person, but the bar for being better is so low it’s not possible to say that there can’t be a Little 2, because there’s a lot of room for improvement. While the movie is funny and a nice escape, it’s not much more.